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United States & Canada - August 27

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Statistical fluke prevents nuclear incident in Ohio
Former FirstEnergy engineer guilty on 3 of 5 counts

Staff, Toledo Blade
A former FirstEnergy Corp. engineer was found guilty Tuesday afternoon by a U.S. District Court jury on three of five counts he faced for lying or withholding information from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about Davis-Besse's operating status in the fall of 2001.

... Mr. Siemaszko's attorneys maintained he was trying to get Davis-Besse's old reactor head fixed in 2000.

Upon inspection in early April of 2002, the head was found in a near-ruptured state - the worst ever for an in-service U.S. nuclear reactor. Its dangerous condition was blamed on years of neglect and a massive cover-up.

Subsequent laboratory tests showed it was a statistical fluke that it held together. If it hadn't, deadly radioactive steam would have formed in containment for the first time since the half-core meltdown of Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island Unit 2 nuclear plant in 1979.
(26 August 2008)



Abandon 19th century fuels and move toward 21st century reponses (Calif. Dem. Candidate Debbie Cook)

Debbie Cook, The Hill's Congress Blog
America lost 10 years of potential technological innovation to Europe and Asia arguing about whether Climate Change was man-made or not. As a result we lost our edge in the world, we increased our energy vulnerability, and we seem to have learned nothing from it. We are now arguing over whether drilling the last thimble full of oil is going to keep us rolling merrily along.

Every American needs to understand that the world has now experienced three years of flat oil production and during those three years, another 230 million energy consumers were added to the population of the world. It is obvious to any observer that oil production, for whatever reason, whether geologic or geopolitical in nature, is not going to keep up with demand. Fifty-four of the 65 oil-producing nations have entered irreversible production declines. This is a matter of fact, not opinion. We can either continue to debate and watch opportunities pass us by or develop a sustainable future that reduces world tensions and our energy vulnerability.

... The truth is that our economy was built on abundant cheap fossil fuels whose subsidized price encouraged waste and rapid consumption. As energy quality and quantity declines, it will have enormous effects on net economic growth, the cost of government, our ability to pay back debt, and whether we can fund pensions, healthcare, and important public services. We are all subject to natures’ laws and principles and no amount of arguing can change that fact. We can continue to waste precious time hanging on to 19th century fuels or we can move rapidly and consistently toward 21st century responses.
(25 August 2008)
Also posted at Post Carbon Institute

Debbie Cook is the mayor of Huntington Beach, California, and Democratic candidate for California's 46th congressional district. She is also a member of the board of ASPO-USA and of the Post Carbon Institute.



Drilling boom revives hopes for natural gas

Clifford Krauss, New York Times
American natural gas production is rising at a clip not seen in half a century, pushing down prices of the fuel and reversing conventional wisdom that domestic gas fields were in irreversible decline.

The new drilling boom uses advanced technology to release gas trapped in huge shale beds found throughout North America - gas long believed to be out of reach. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, releasing less of the emissions that cause global warming than coal or oil.

Rising production of natural gas has significant long-range implications for American consumers and businesses. A sustained increase in gas supplies over the next decade could slow the rise of utility bills, obviate the need to import gas and make energy-intensive industries more competitive.

While the recent production increase is indisputable, not everyone is convinced the additional supplies can last for decades. “The jury is still out how big shale is going to be,” said Robert Ineson, a natural gas analyst at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting firm.
(24 August 2008)



Schumer: “The drilling issue has peaked”

Daniel W. Reilly, Politico
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicted Monday that “the drilling issue has peaked,” convinced that voters will not punish Democrats this November for the high price of gas.

“It has just been out there and as people think it through ... they just want to make sure [Congress] is trying everything,” Schumer said during a roundtable discussion with Politico reporters and editors.

While gas prices soared past $4 per gallon on Memorial Day, they have retreated some in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), unveiled a plan to allow for some increased domestic oil drilling, coupled with a rolling back of tax breaks for large oil companies.

Still, Schumer’s comments are sure to cause a stir with Republicans, who have been staging protests on the House floor during the August recess, demanding Pelosi call the House back in session to vote on the issue of domestic drilling.

Early on, Schumer acknowledged, that Republicans had the upper hand on the energy debate but predicted the issue would not hurt Democratic candidates this November.
(25 August 2008)
Contributor Lisa Wright adds:
Congress doing nothing to change the current moratoriums against drilling before the elections also means doing nothing on any other energy-related changes in policies.



Big Coal’s Big-Time Lobby

Matthew Lewis, Papertrail
Convention-goers in Denver and St. Paul won’t be able to miss the $2 million advertising blitz planned by businesses promoting “clean coal” as key to the nation’s energy future. But chances are, the politicians flying in from the nation’s capital are already well aware of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity’s message. A Center for Public Integrity analysis shows that the newly formed group spent $4.7 million on lobbying so far this year - more than any other organization that described itself in disclosure forms as devoted exclusively to influencing climate change legislation...
(25 August 2008)

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